If you ever have an oral exam or interview, I strongly recommend running to it (provided you have stashed your blazer, dress, and heels in your office beforehand). It was like 17 degrees so my hands froze off, but you don't need those for an oral exam, anyway. And running will beat overthought right out of you, which is probably the best possible way to spend the half hour before an exam. It also helped that the iPod understood the situation, started with "Carry on Wayward Son," middled into The Rolling Stones, and finished out with the Fast and Furious soundtrack. Good iPod! XP
As far as what the other side is like--I was told this is how it would be, so I'm not surprised. But there is no euphoria, no elated sense of freedom, no sense of really having finished anything. This is long-game--if there are rewards, they're annuity-based, not immediate. (Though my bank account certainly feels differently. I HAVE PURCHASED MANY PRESENTS...FOR MYSELF... A new phone, the camping pad I've always wanted, rock climbing shoes, the like.)
But there is time, now, to do things like reorganize bookshelves, vacuum cobwebs. Cook actual food. Wash bed linens. Eat meals that aren't timed. Apply lotion. Feel sad and dire in the morning and rectify this by luxuriating in two hours of reading flist back-issues and commenting (which really means socializing). There's time to fashion Excel budgets and answer text messages and collect all 999 documents it will take to procure a Michigan driver's license so your insurance carrier doesn't drop you. Life stuff like that.
It also feels empty, and like a flatline, because I've been suddenly divested of grim purpose and the responsibilities that remain--the class I'm teaching, the classes I'm taking--seem alien. The horizon--finding archives, doing research, writing the dissertation--is hazy and also alien. For the purposes of this journal and the purposes of just me being me, it feels a bit like being released from this horrible thing (that you actually did choose for yourself, and choose on purpose, for a reason) but coming out on the other end and feeling empty and off-step and not really doing much of anything, even though there are probably lots of things you really should be doing. Ahaha. XP
I guess the next step is trying to put my life back together? I'm well overdue on exercise and housework and non-prelims academia, so I'll start there. I also have some long overdue DCBBs to read, and fic in general. And much to WRITE, once I get over being scared of writing, because I at the moment, I am--very much so.
Baby steps, I keep telling myself.